Democratic auto shop owner seeks Herrera Beutler’s seat


An auto shop owner on the east side of Washington’s Third Congressional District thinks her knowledge of navigating small businesses gives her a better perspective on Southwest Washington’s issues at the federal level.

Marie Gluesenkamp Perez formally announced her intent to seek the U.S. House of Representatives seat currently occupied by Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, in late February.

Gluesenkamp Perez lives on the western side of Skamania County with her husband, Dean, and their 8-month-old son. The couple owns an automotive repair shop in northeast Portland, but Gluesenkamp Perez wanted to live in Washington where she has five generations of history.

“I know lots of folks don’t see the difference between one side of the river and the other,” she said. 

The rural environment of Skamania was a draw for her. 

A relative latecomer to the race, Gluesenkamp Perez said she started to consider her candidacy seriously in January. She recalled seeing opinion pieces that told Democrats to vote for Herrera Beutler because of an apparent lack of a serious candidate in their own party.

Her decision to run had to be weighed with taking on another full-time job outside of running a business and caring for an infant. 

“We had to have a lot of talks with folks in our community to figure out if we could have the support to take care of our son and keep our business running,” Gluesenkamp Perez said. 

Her auto shop has allowed Gluesenkamp Perez to witness how the federal government negatively impacts small businesses, she said. Health care and child care play into that issue. Her campaign materials state she takes her son to work because child care is too expensive.

On health care, Gluesenkamp Perez said small businesses can’t compete with large corporations to provide coverage for their employees.

“It’s just not a level playing field,” she said.

Taxes are another issue for small businesses, Gluesenkamp Perez said. She noted she pays a small fortune to file and pay taxes appropriately. She said the federal government doesn’t make it easy for small businesses to be in compliance with the tax code.

“I just see lip service for small businesses in Congress,” Gluesenkamp Perez said.

Gluesenkamp Perez also believes small levels of medical debt should not be reported on credit scores.

“Those are the kinds of things that keep average Americans from being able to get a loan for their home, a loan for a car, access to capital,” Gluesenkamp Perez said. “There’s just a real cognitive dissonance when we say that we want to support homeownership, and yet we have outdated, bad data on what makes someone a good bet for a loan.”

Gluesenkamp Perez, who takes Interstate 205 to get to her business, said the replacement of the Interstate 5 bridge needs to happen sooner rather than later.

“I say a little prayer every time I cross the I-5 bridge,” Gluesenkamp Perez said. “What are we waiting for, some school bus to fall through it?”

Gluesenkamp Perez mentioned she’s serving a second term on the Underwood Conservation District, and previously served as the executive director for the Stevenson Downtown Association. She said that position gave her a better understanding of small town issues across the congressional district. 

One of the hardest parts about getting a campaign off the group is funding, Gluesenkamp Perez said.

“Coming from the trades, it is crazy to me how much money it takes to run a federal race,” she said. 

Gluesenkamp Perez said she expects to have a strong quarterly fundraising report. She plans to schedule more community events, which will include in-person ones, in the leadup to the election.

Gluesenkamp Perez joins a hotly contested race full of challengers to Herrera Beutler on both sides of the political spectrum. Gluesenkamp Perez and Brent Hennrich are the Democratic candidates for the seat, while on the Republican side, Joe Kent, Vicki Kraft and Heidi St. John are running.

Herrera Beutler’s Republican challengers have denounced her vote to impeach then-president Donald Trump, and have called into question the incumbent’s validity as a representative of the GOP.

Gluesenkamp Perez said it is “wild to see the level of extremism that’s emerged.”

“So many of these folks are ordering their campaigns around clickbait politics,” Gluesenkamp Perez said. “There are real existential threats. There are real problems to be solved.”